The Remarkable Wines of Etna, Sicily from Frank Cornelissen

By | 17 February 2024


Frank Cornelissen recently showcased his 2019 single-vineyard wines in London, a culmination of 22 years of intense research, discussion and refinement. He also introduced a new concoction: Perpetuum. According to Frank, this new addition is a result of his continued pursuit of precision and representation of the local terroir.

Frank revealed that the 2019 single-vineyard collection marks the second application of sulfites to all his wines. ‘We altered the ageing procedure,’ he explains, ‘permitting the wines more bottled ageing time. The Nerello varietal showcases its subtle notes better when allowed ample time in the bottle. Previously, these wines were available in the market a tad early.’ Underground storage, albeit an expensive proposition, has enabled this extended ageing period.

When asked about Perpetuum, Frank describes it as both a project and a marketing approach. Raised under the tutelage of his father, who enjoyed older wines, Frank had the fortune of tasting a variety of excellent wines early on in life. Thanks to the comparatively modest pricing of classic wines during his birth year in 1961, young Frank had access to a wide range of quality wines.

‘Munjebel Classic used to be a mix of two distinct years. Now, it’s a solera comprising of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019, with 2018 deliberately excluded due to unsatisfactory tannin levels. The exquisite wine we had the pleasure of tasting is the second blend, called P2.

Interestingly, Frank steers clear from using wooden barrels for his wines, opting for fibreglass instead. He built a corner of his wine cellar to maintain a lower temperature of 12C, ideal for the solera, held in a massive 7000 litre tank. The preservation of this low temperature is critical as a higher one would cause the volatile acidity levels to shoot up.

Frank’s pioneering vintage was in 2001 and today his vineyards span 24 hectares across 18 diverse sites. Through the years, his wine-making has seen considerable evolutions. 2018, for example, marked the year he started using a sorting table. He’s refined his process, utilizing sulfites more frequently, and he has recently started collaborating with Guillaume Thienpoint.

Uniquely, the MunJebel wines are all single contrada, denoted by a pair of letters. This is presumably because they do not hold the Etna DOC label thus the contrada name cannot be on the label. The contrada name, however, can still be found marked on the closure; true to his innovative spirit, Frank opts for the complex plastic Ardea Seal for these wines.

MunJebel Bianco 2019
Composed of Caricante and Grecanico Dorato. This wine possesses a stony and detailed character punctuated by compact citrus fruit and a mineral edge, displaying notable acidity. A rating of 90/100 is bestowed upon it.

MunJebel MC Monte Colla 2019
This distinctive vintage sourced from steep south-facing old vines planted on compacted sandy clay soils at 760 m. It resonates with structure and directness as well as presenting good tannin beneath sweet cherry and plum fruit, exuding an agreeable grip. There’s an element of elegance and purity paired with firm tannins culminating in the distinct expression, earning it a score of 94/100.

MunJebel FM Feudo di Mezzo 2019
With 40+ year old vines at 580 m on deep volcanic soils, this wine is notable for its supple, pretty, and expressively floral cherry and raspberry fruit. It emanates an easy-going aura, but also exhibits some firm structural elements. The sweetness of the fruit and the tapering finish contribute to its overall charm. It secures a rating of 94/100.

MunJebel CR Campo Re 2019
Expertly made from 70+ year old vines, some ungrafted, planted on deeper soils at 730 m, this wine pleases the palate with lovely floral aromatics and red cherries and plums. It comes across as expressive featuring its lovely red fruits and a silky edge, along with sound structure. A sweet core and layers of flavour pervade, including fine spices, evoking elegance, and structure, deserving of a score of 95/100.

MunJebel VA Vigne Alte 2019
Coming from ungrafted vines aged 90+ years situated at an altitude between 870-1000 m, this wine offers a sweet aroma of ripe red cherries. The palate reflects the warmth with the same red cherry notes, accompanied by pleasant hints of fine herbs. The wine exhibits a balance between sweet fruit and a good underlying structure, creating an overall impression of elegance and power with lovely weight. The rating is 95/100.

Magma 2019
This top-shelf wine is produced from ungrafted vines planted in 1910 at a height of 870-910 m above Solicchiata. Furthermore, Since 2007, the wine has its origins in Contrada Barbabecchi. It showcases refined flavors of red cherry with a hint of redcurrant. Despite appearing lean, the wine is surprisingly fruity and expressive in nature, with an underlying structure that holds promise. The rating stands at 96/100.

MunJebel P2 Perpetuum NV
This is a new addition to the collection, exhibiting complex and spicy tones with a certain lift. It carries aromas of dried herbs and has a nice density. This wine features tannic structure combined with warmth and spice but also some secondary spicy notes. It emanates a captivating elegance alongside a long, grainy, spicy finish. The rating is 95/100.

MunJebel CS Contrada Zottorinoto 2012
This wine is made for the first time from ungrafted vines planted in 1925 at an altitude of 620 m. It carries a spicy, slightly wild and animalistic characteristic. The flavor profile reveals sweet cherries and plums, becoming edgy as it moves towards a finish marked by grippy tannins and a sweet core. The rating stands at 90/100.

MunJebel CS Contrada Zottorinoto 2013
With a distinct earthy, herbal, and spicy aroma, this wine displays a certain maturity in taste. The palate is graceful and spicy with firm tannins and a mild acid lift. A robust grip balances out the rich flesh and sweetness of fruit with refined tannins. 93/100

MunJebel CS Contrada Zottorinoto 2014
This lively wine has a subtle spiciness along with a sweet and rich taste of cherries and plums. The solid tannic structure enhances the striking fruitiness of this wine. 93/100

MunJebel CS Contrada Zottorinoto 2015
Exhibiting a clear sweetness and sourness, this wine is vibrant with its meaty, spicy cherry fruit flavors. There is a bit of grip and volatility, but it’s remarkably pleasant to the palate. Despite its character, it’s advisable not to store this wine too long. 92/100

MunJebel CS Contrada Zottorinoto 2017
This vintage has an alcohol level of 16% and is supremely ripe, laden, and smooth, offering bold flavors of black cherry and plum. The lush and luxurious taste is accentuated by the incredibly sweet fruit, creating a well-layered and refined beverage. 94/100

MunJebel CS Contrada Zottorinoto 2020
So ripe, sweet and easy. Plush with sweet cherries and plums, as well as some strawberry. Nice lushness. Supple, smooth, ripe and silky. 94/100

UK agent: Raeburn Fine Wines

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